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Saturday, January 23, 2010

The real class war ahead, cont'd

The showdown between government employees and the rest of us over money draws closer by the day. Today we learn that a majority of union members in the United States are now government employees. Judging from the nasty personal comments left on this blog by some of the local thugs, I'd say this one's going to get mighty ugly.

Comments (39)

The class war started a long time ago, in January 20, 1981- it's been as effective and simple:

1) Take away the basic ability of people to better themselves by gutting public schools and libraries
2) Take away people's ability to redress wrongs by crippling enforcement of laws.
3) Cripple people's ability to organize against entrenched interests.

The capstone was put in place when Murdoch gave Newt a multi-million dollar "book deal", and in turn was granted the able to create an entire "news" and entertainment business whose sole editorial thrust revolves around convincing people to act against their own interests.

Take a look at the wealth structure of the US and you'll notice the US no longer has a middle class. It used to be a diamond, now it's an hourglass.

That's exactly what I'm NOT talking about. The next class war is going to be between unionized government employees and the public at large.

The only good blue-collar jobs left in the U.S. are in government. All the other well-paying jobs have been offshored. In the old days, a job as a cop, firefighter, prison guard or postal clerk paid a lot less than a union manufacturing or skilled trades job. That is no longer the case. The solution is to rebuild our manufacturing base and crumbling infrastructure, and create more good jobs in the process. Globalization made piles of money for some - at the expense of all those private-sector union jobs that have mostly disappeared.

Clinton and his world trade juggernaut, cheered on by all the "free market" worshippers. What a blunder.

The economics geniuses who sold Clinton on globalization have the ear of Obama as well. Their theory was that globalization would improve the lot of US workers. They have a million excuses for why this has not happened. They were dead wrong, but will never admit it.

Globalization is here, and probably to stay, and with it the unavailability of a huge swath of middle-class manufacturing jobs in this country. Since reversing globalization is not on the political agenda of either party, and is likely not economically possible in any case, what we need are solutions for what will surely be chronic unemployment and underemployment.

Blaming the rise of government jobs may make for nice venting, but government jobs aren't the problem. The ratio of government/private sector jobs has risen as the number of private sector jobs has reduced, and as the concomitant need for public sector services has risen.

What's lacking is a vision for the redevelopment of the private sector, a vision that rebuilds some version of a manufacturing sector in this country. We'll never make it as a service-oriented economy, at least not as long as the same services are provided in Bangalore at a quarter the price. And the day of our being an extractive-based economy are surely through.

I am grooming my children for a life of "service" in the federal government starting right out of high school. Awesome pay that never goes down, job security, and Cadillac benefits.

[BTW William Thompson is full of nonsense: Government is A-OK, the private sector is lacking vision for redevelopment. Uh-huh, 'cause government is known for its omniscient and prescient vision of redevelopement.]

Vote yes on more taxes to fund government "services." And go by streetcar!


Isn't the tenure system for professors one of the oldest and strongest union-type systems in the United States? Doesn't the tenure system give great job security to professors that get lazy?

Some people think that our economy is being reset, so we can compete globally where wages are the factor. Some company out there must believe that theory as one of the old factories in my hometown has just been purchased by a company that specializes in updating old empty factories ( in this case, the original company moved to Mexico for cheaper labor cost) so they can be ready for a new manufacturer whenever that time comes. What do they know that makes them think that manufacturing may once return to America and will it be in time to correct our current economic conditions?

Non-union members I recently spoke with in the Midwest, believe that it’s the unions that caused the huge increase in wage levels for jobs that required little to no skill, thus causing our products to not compete in the global market place.

The hyper-captialism mode that Wall St has created makes people believe they must replace items that are perfectly good with something new and on an ongoing manner. Wall St expects the current quarters production and sales to exceed the last and on an ongoing manner too. So to make our economy work, we must constantly be replacing items that are perfectly good and spending our money rather than saving it like previous generations did. Whatever happened to balancing the two objectives?

I don’t know what a perfect economy would look like, but I do know that the model we are currently working under isn’t sustainable.

Anyone who does even a brief study of labor history understands the importance of the link between a strong labor movement, a healthy middle class, and a dynamic/sustainable economy. One of the many failings of the Obama administration to this point has been its lack of interest in revitalizing the labor movement.

It's a shame that Obama has (at least so far) missed the opportunity to install a Labor Secretary who will work hard in conjunction with the Justice Department to enforce the provisions of the NLRA. He would have renewed and increased his political capital by pushing legislation that strengthens workers' ability to organize, restricts management's arbitrary and capricious treatment of employees, and that provides for more balance in the collective bargaining process. Had the Dems used their big majority to rebalance labor and management power, they would have increased their political capital and would be in a much better place today.

The problem isn't that most union workers are working for the government. It's that the labor movement has been so thoroughly defeated in the past three decades that the unionized non-government sector has been eviscerated. As William Thompson suggests above, our long-term economic security requires that we begin rebuilding the middle class and our manufacturing base. We should be asking, "Why doesn't everyone else have more?" instead of "Why do government workers have adequate pay and benefits."

Fomenting envy of and anger against government workers--who largely represent the middle class by default--is playing into the hands of right-wing demagogues bent on removing the last impediments to an oligarchy.

rural, maybe the times we live in and the turbulant unsettling effects we all feel are what previous generations experienced when they transistioned from one type economy to the next..for instance when the agricultural based economy transitioned into the manufacturing economy.. and we just have the misfortune of being around during these transforming times?

I wonder if the people in the agricultural era were feeling abandoned much like many in America do now? Did the leaders of those bygone times fail to give a vision to the citizens that would have made them believe they would find a new place in a new economy and everything would all work out? Or did they fail in that visioning effort too?

I used to look at the future as it would be pretty much like what my parents and grandparents experienced.. a reasonable level of comfort as I entered into my golden years.. but now with the country being bankrupted and the good jobs that afforded the middle class being sent off shore, I have no idea what the future may hold and that I think is what disturbs many of us...

Interesting. Who knew there were still some well-meaning progressives reading this blog.

I agree that we are faced with two problems. Reagan declared war on the middle class (with their full support) creating the most unequal first-world society with the masses waiting for the trickle that never comes. In the meantime the powers that be gave the public employees everything they wanted as they supplied the funds to get them elected. This second part wouldn't be such a big deal if we still had a middle class to pay for it. Now the people that bought us Reagan are getting whipped into a frenzy by FOX and are looking for a messiah and a fight. Oh how jolly.

The reason this whole situation has occurred is the "free" (word used loosely) market itself, primarily due to the cause that others have already posted.

But if its actually true that most union employees are now government employees then this gives the fascists great ammo to dupe the unsuspecting public.

Class envy does great things for the manipulators of policy.

Americans are so split up right now, "liberal vs conservative", "public sector vs private sector" "god fearing vs atheists" "white power vs the influx of minorities", this list goes on and on how we as Americans has stratified ourselves.

Most of the former blue color production jobs have been shipped overseas. The elite class that runs the world doesn't have loyalties to any "country", they have loyalties to themselves.

Patriotism is for the masses, unfortunately most of the public is ignorant.

There is a possibility that videos such at the one HERE could be true!

Divide and conquer, we are supposed to be all Americans, not anymore. One class vs another class at each others throats.

Are we all destined to become good Germans now? Ive never played that role before. How we supposed to act?

How we supposed to act?


Take a look at "pensiontsunami.com" to see
the financial impact of public employee
pensions across the country. The current
loop of more regulations begetting more
government jobs begetting more Democrats
elected begetting more regulations is fatal
to any expansion in the private sector.

Isn't the tenure system for professors one of the oldest and strongest union-type systems in the United States? Doesn't the tenure system give great job security to professors that get lazy?

I'm not against unions. Indeed, at some schools, the professors have tenure and a union. Generally speaking, if you have a boss, you need a union. If you have a dangerous job, you definitely need a union.

But if you're performing some vital public function, there need to be some limits. And when you get too big for your britches, your employer gets to push back. It's coming.

There need to be limits?
Who sets the limits?
See the statistics HERE!

Who gets to decide who is getting paid too much for what they are doing?

I'm also not really sure what the issue is here, Jack. The article seems rather tone-deaf. Anyone who'd been paying attention knew that so many blue-collar jobs had been lost over the past several decades ("Roger & Me" came out twenty years ago) that skilled and unskilled labor was becoming a smaller portion of union membership. The trades unions in Oregon alone are a fraction of the size they were even 10 or 15 years ago, after they'd suffered large-scale losses.

Those losses weren't just related to the numbers of jobs, either. Failure to enforce labor laws by successive Republican and Democratic administrations has helped drive down union membership outside of the public sector. Cases where a company fires the people involved in organizing, then drags court cases out five years and ends up paying back wages aren't uncommon. Meantime, the rest of the workers have been forced out or just left to find someplace else.

But yeah, it's the fault of the unions. Isn't it always?

Who gets to decide who is getting paid too much for what they are doing?

In the US, apparently it is the "pay czar". Yes, this guy is a lawyer. No irony there, is there?

When we see the wave of municipal bankruptcies, you guys' pensions are going to be in jeopardy. And the public is going to be in no mood to hear your plaintive bleats. Watch California, boys. The war is coming.

Once upon a time, unions were beneficial. They took on tyrants in the private sector, and they did some good work.

Then they moved into the public sector, where they were not needed. And over the years, having killed many jobs in the private sector (UAW), they are now focused upon bankrupting taxpayers.


Public employee unions are killing everybody else.

Hey, the real division on politics and issues is not D/R or cons/lib, it will be:
1) Do you net get money from the govt?
2) Do you net pay money to the govt?

I'm really having a hard time with groups like the OEA who are more concerned with teacher benefits than educating students (at least that's all I ever hear them ask for is benes and never about how to improve schools.)

Steve ... I'm anything but a big fan of OEA, but you must not know *bleep* about what actually goes on in elementary and secondary schools if you think that they're not working to improve education and make things better for kids. (And no, I'm not a current member. Haven't been for years.)

OEA helps facilitate a wide range of professional development opportunities for educators. Despite the uninformed wailings from know-nothings, they also work with others in the development of educational standards, bring teachers information about "best practices" through information sharing, promote literacy and basic skill development, and at least attempt to improve the classroom climate and general importance of education.

I guess you think the quality of education would improve significantly if teachers were paid $10K a year and had no benefits? Guess again. Education is better because people who work in it can afford to devote their full energies to it and make a decent living.

Yes, OEA is a union (professional association) and, as such, its role is to be concerned with the economic welfare of its members. What a surprise. And it's a good thing they are, because if they weren't, nobody else would be.

I'm always amused at how much more highly "the public" thought of teachers when they were making peasant wages a few decades ago. When I first started teaching, one community member told me that, in our district, no teacher would ever be paid more than the lowest paid timber worker, and that logger pay was one of the criteria used to determine teacher salary levels. I suspect that no small part of the enmity towards teachers (and teacher's unions) is that those darned K-12 teachers have become so uppity as to think that they're actually worth something.

I've often disagreed with OEA about their politics and strategies, as well as some of their negotiating priorities. But I would never question the sincere interest of those at OEA headquarters or its members when it comes to improving teaching or the well being of students.

Robert ... I agree with you that there is great fear and uncertainty in the air. When the economy is as uncertain as it is, people become frustrated and angry--and often show their worst side. That's why we need strong, decisive leadership. The kind we haven't been getting from Obama and the Dems.

That said, attacking public employees for making what is, generally, at best a lower-middle class living is unseemly and destructive.

When times are good, pay increases for public employees are limited to something close to the inflation rate. There are no big bonuses, profit sharing, stock options, trips to faraway lands as rewards for productivity, or other perks so commonly found in corporate America. The cry is always, "but in bad times, their jobs are more secure and they get good benefits."

OK. These are the bad times. Their jobs are more secure, and they have pretty good benefits. When the economy gets white hot again (as it will), public employees are not going to get big pay increases. It balances out.

When I started doing tax returns many years ago, I was shocked at the difference in the retirement benefits received by those employed by the State of Oregon (small) versus the federal government (more than ample). There's a certain justice in the improvement of PERS benefit levels--mostly because the state's public employees were forced to accept a deal that most people made fun of them for accepting.

And, if PERS benefits were half of what current and future retirees get, your taxes wouldn't go down a dime. The additional returns earned by the Oregon Investment Council would just find their way into the already overloaded hands of some hedge fund manager somewhere. I'd rather see it go to some nice middle class folks who spent careers doing jobs that, for all the blather of the blowhard right wingers, most people really aren't all that interested in preparing for or doing.

"Despite the uninformed wailings from know-nothings, they [unions] also work with others in the development of educational standards, bring teachers information about "best practices" through information sharing, promote literacy and basic skill development..."

"Education is better because people who work in it can afford to devote their full energies to it and make a decent living."

Sorry, RR, but only an ex-OEA member would really conclude that education today is better than 30 or 50 years ago, despite the union's effort to 'promote literacy' among its members. College has been dumbed down so much that today's diploma is the equivalent of a High School diploma of 40 years ago. And the standardized tests are 're-normed' to try to cover up the decline, but it is obvious to anyone who talks to the folks involved. The schools of education are havens of mediocrity and generators of fads - blow them up & hire teachers who are expert in their subjects & their natural enthusiasm will make up for their ignorance of the pedagogical flavor of the week. Pay teachers a fair wage for the nine months they work, & retire them after a full career at 60-70% of their real salary, and respect them by removing children who disrupt the education of the others. Asian nations educate kids from far less affluent backgrounds to far higher standards, using methods the 'experts' threw out 40 years ago, and they will eat our kids' lunch. Ordinary "know-nothings' are tired of paying $12,000 per student for inferior babysitting by unionized education Mandarins who provide worse outcomes every year, while religious & private schools do far better with far less.

please write a book


What a load.

"OEA helps facilitate a wide range of professional development opportunities for educators?"

Like cultural competency programs?
Or how to pad your resume and paycheck?

"they also work with others in the development of educational standards,"

Like CIMCAM reform? The tremendous fraud and waste.

"bring teachers information about "best practices" through information sharing,"

Yeah right. They exclude or obstruct everything which doesn't take more teachers. The best expert on closing the achievment has been shunned by the OEA becasue they don't like the effect on union objectives.

"promote literacy"

Are you kidding me? The OEA as been about whole language, whole math, and ESL which takes 7 years to teach English.

"basic skill development"
They're too busy advocating political correctness.

"and at least attempt to improve the classroom climate and general importance of education."

Yeah by electiing dolts who preserve their power.

Our public school system was better prior to 1974 when there was no teacher union.

The result of their 35 years of helping is the least educated/current 20 year old in all the recent generations.

This is from the OEA. Of course they raised this statistic in an effort to connect it to a lack of adequate funding.
Funding for themselves of course.

Another fraud is the QEM, Quality Education Model, which without any basis at all, claims stndards will be met with an few billion more.

I'd say you're the know nothing.

I've know many teachers and gained a clear understanding of their qualities during my own child's K-12 public education when I engaged many from district all over the State.

The union, OEA, COSA and OSBA are scoundrels all.

Morbius ... We can agree to disagree about whether education now is better than it was forty or fifty years ago. I know that when I taught, I gave students content that I didn't learn until I was in college. I saw this in other classes, too, and our school certainly wasn't a Lake Oswego, Corvallis, or South Eugene with lost of kids of well-off professional people.

You talk about private schools and Oriental kids doing better. You're right. Which proves that when you have parents who are interested and involved in their kids education, who support the schools and communicate positive views about the value of education to their children, and who are economically stable, those children do better. Big shock! The biggest difference between the last couple of decades and many years ago is the difference in discipline in the schools. Teachers didn't do this. A U. S. Supreme Court decision (regarding the length of a student's hair, of all things), followed by many other judicial proceedings, did. Things are more political now, and parents exercise more control. Teachers and administrators have less authority. That's a societal shift that we need to address.

Some teachers know their subjects better than others. That's not new. Some communicate and organize information better. That's not new either. Schools now attempt to educate ALL students, not just the ones that are easier to deal with. Compare the percentage of kids with high school diplomas now versus that percentage 50 or 60 years ago. It's higher now.

My take after 25 years of teaching is that, at least when I left, kids were, overall, probably a little less skilled in some areas, a little more in others. They're much more street smart and technology wise. They still make the same dumb mistakes as did their elders generations ago. Comes with the territory. You also have to remember that their economic outlook is different. Years ago, schools could get kids to concentrate on studies by convincing them that they could get a decent job, keep their noses clean, and have a solid middle class life. Kids know this isn't true anymore. The link between success in school and success in life, to the extent that it ever really existed, has been broken. Kids know this and they're more cynical. With good reason.

Ben ... Don't blame teachers for CIM and CAM. Or the QEM. Those were the work of legislators and leaders outside of education. CIM and CAM, frankly, were promoted by a lot of conservatives who just can't get enough of student testing. The rest of your comment isn't worth responding to.

and respect them by removing children who disrupt the education of the others.

Morbius, you don't understand what "public school" means, and the FEDERAL law that requires "free and appropriate education" for ALL school age kids. Look it up.

In other words, you don't get to pick which kids are "appropriate" for public schools--everybody gets access.

And teachers have to cope with this, every day, with classes full of future Harvard graduates, kids who do nothing but steal school supplies, and kids who have serious learning disabilities.

And teachers are routinely blamed (by parents, by the public) for each and every failing of the system, for test scores, and just about everything else.

Hell, they even get to hear people rail against them for "making too much money", a claim so ludicrous that only a person on the outside looking in, with little empathy or understanding of how school systems and classrooms *really work*, could claim it.

The schools of education are havens of mediocrity and generators of fads - blow them up & hire teachers who are expert in their subjects & their natural enthusiasm will make up for their ignorance of the pedagogical flavor of the week.

Astounding. Morbius, schools are full of passionate, expert, enthusiastic, tireless teachers who give their all--and that often includes their own money--to make public schools work for kids. For you to act as if these schools are "havens of mediocrity" deserves more ridicule than you're attempting to sling at those workers. In other words, it's bullshit.

Asian nations educate kids from far less affluent backgrounds to far higher standards, using methods the 'experts' threw out 40 years ago, and they will eat our kids' lunch.

Again, an astounding lack of knowledge about what you're trying to discuss, likely based on reading news articles about "test score" rankings.

Morbius, do you know that "test scores" are not synonymous with "education"?

I would never question the sincere interest of those at OEA headquarters or its members when it comes to improving teaching or the well being of students.

rural resident - You are hopefully correct about the concern of OEA members, but "those at OEA headquarters" are another thing.

I had the "privilege" of going before the OEA board at its headquarters a number of years ago to promote a school choice initiative that I assumed they would oppose. I did it because I sincerely wanted to see their reaction and understand their arguments against my proposal.

Instead of reasoned arguments, I got rudeness, vulgarity, and even one anti-Semitic comment. They acted like a bunch of juvenile delinquents. In fairness, the OEA president did apologize for their their bad behavior, but I got the feeling that she was actually telling me that I shouldn't be surprised by it. Needless to say, I was very surprised.

When I related the above to a colleague of mine who was an OEA member he told me, "Steve...you have to understand...those are the goons we hire to get us what we want."


Here's a surprise, they want to double the PERS rates to govt.

We're going to have crappy public schools no matter how anyone votes on 66/67. Just give up - Employee benes are going to kill everythgin in this state.

"it's the fault of the unions."

No, it's the result of govt employment growing much faster than private employment.

"I guess you think the quality of education would improve significantly if teachers were paid $10K a year and had no benefits?"

No, I would think the quality of edcuation would improve if we rewarded and groomed good teachers and got rid of the worse ones.

What the union has created is a system where a teacher can be lousy (excepting committing a felony) and get paid like a teacher who busts his behind.

When layoffs happen, guess what? Good young teachers get let go and the bad ones with seniority keep going.

At least it explains why most public school teachers send their kids to private schools where the teachers have lower benes.

Egohuman - No point in responding to most of your party-line drivel. I would, however, urge you to learn to read - I said "Schools of Education" are havens of mediocrity, not all schools (though the Unions are doing their best to mediocritize them all.) As to Gov't Schools taking all comers, that's foolish, & the Federal laws requiring schools to keep violent jerks in class should be repealed. Give them one, two bites at the apple with hellishly expensive remedial ed, but let them make juvie & jail their career if they wish, or send them to the military for a little character-building, like they used to (if the military will have them.) Harsh, but why must kids & teachers suffer for a few thugs? I had friends who were straightened out early on by simple & effective humiliation that got the point across, & would get the poor teacher in Dutch today. (God bless you, Miss Gotberg, wherever you are!) Let the good teachers teach, not babysit, in a safe environment & reward them. Fire those who can't or won't.

(Anyway, I got my best laugh and biggest smile of the day, maybe of the month, here amid so many closed minds head-butting so much: Where Buckstein is, (if it's truly Mr. C.P.I. rightwing think 'tank' ... if rightwing think is not an oxymoron ... see? the smile just keeps spreading), calling others "juvenile delinquents" ... this from the very caricature of adolescent-regressed maturity development.)

- -

This topic needs depth-of-field numbers for a wider perspective and stronger understanding.

The premise seen with one eye closed says:
Most union members are government (taxpayer)-paid Public Employees.
(The article's numbers are 8 million union members ARE Public Employees, while 'only' 7.5 million union members ARE NOT Public Employees ... approx. numbers, I don't recall the exact amounts and I'm using 8 and 7.5 to give a fair sense of the ratio.)

Add this information which the article omits:
Most government-paid Public Employees are NOT in a union.

Meaning that the excessive overpay and wasted taxpayer money for Public Employees is NOT due to the union-membership group in government personnel. The non-union Public Employees group is MORE of the WASTE.

The BIGGEST group of Public Employees is the military-made group. Besides 2.3 million active-duty taxpayer-paid Public Employee soldiers sailors and airmen, (then I guesstimate, based on either failure of government to compile reports, or government-made reports hidden as Top Secret not for public disclosure -- so without reference, making this up out of thin air and trend patterns), there are 6 million 'direct support' Public Employees for the active-duty military troops, plus 8 million Public Employees in positions related to military spending in that if the DoD budget were slashed their public paycheck would end, (and in the 2.3 + 6 + 8 millions barely any of them are union members).

Furthermore, there are 'civilian' employees of contractors for military spending, (so, tax money-dependent),(Boeing, say), which amount to more than 30 million workers -- I've seen estimates over 25% of ALL (150 million?) American employment is the military-industry sector and military-service sector. For example and perspective, US taxpayer money is spent on 80,000 US troops in Afghanistan PLUS 100,000 US-paid armed mercenaries (considered to be 'civilians' but most are NOT US citizens) in Afghanistan; same in Iraq -- the number of mercenaries NOT in the chain of command under the Commander-in-Chief, is more than the number of US-commanded troops. The mercenary forces are paid by DoD taxpayer money and are NOT under DoD command and orders.

Recognizing that there are 40 million employed people in the US workforce dependent on taxpayer-paid military spending, (and 40 million is a fairly accurate approximation, plus-or-minus 10 million if you like), raises a question of the definition of 'Public Employee,' and although the 40 million is a mix (1 -to- 3 ?) of 'government' and 'civilian' employments and in the mix is union and non-union groups, yet, still, with the BIGGEST spending line item in mind, the issue of Public Employee union-member groups shrinks from sight as not-so-big an issue.

My point is that 'taxes-taking Public Employees' has been rightwing-distorted into 'code words' for OEA, NEA, SEIU, and other Unions. Whereas, heck, in fact and in truth, OEA, NEA, SEIU, and other Unions all put together is not even one-fifth of the BIGGEST 'taxes-taking Public Employees.'

The BIGGEST group of Public Employees taxes are collected for is the military group. And mostly non-union, at that.

(Do V.A. hospitals have Nurses unions? Is the V.F.W. and pensioned Veterans 'unionized'?)

We are in trouble....

population of this country is 300 million.
160 million are retired.
That leaves 140 million to do the
There are 85 million in school.
Which leaves 55 million to do the work.
Of this there are 35 million employed by the federal
Leaving 20 million to do the work.
2.8 million are in the armed forces preoccupied with killing Osama
Which leaves 17.2
million to do the work.
Take from that total the 15.8
million people who work for state and city
Governments... And that
leaves 1.4 million to do the work.
At any given
time there are 188,000 people in hospitals.
Leaving 1,212,000 to do the work.
Now, there are 1,211,998 people
in prisons.
That leaves just two people to do the
You and me.
And there
you are,
Sitting on your ass,
At your computer!

"The next class war is going to be between unionized government employees and the public at large."

I pray you're right. That's exactly where the M66/67 battle lines should have been drawn and fought.

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